KISSIMMEE, Fla. (April 1, 2004) — OTR tire dealers seeking a new profit opportunity and a way to improve service by reducing a customer's down time may want to consider high-performance tire sealants to repair punctures.
That's the thinking-outside-the-box idea that John Webb, president of Houston-based Multi-Seal Corp., presented to attendees at the Tire Industry Association's OTR Conference Feb. 27 in Kissimmee. He noted offering sealants can save customers in repair costs and downtime and provide a way for dealers to differentiate them from competitors.
Multi-Seal manufactures and sells the Multi-Seal Heavy Duty and Multi-Seal Hydro Seal tire sealant brand names as well as some private label sealants for the motorsports industry. Mr. Webb, an organic chemist by training, bought Multi-Seal six years ago and hired another chemist to probe how sealants work and why some separate while others don't.
At the OTR Conference, he acknowledged that many tire sealants have come and gone because there have been charlatans in the industry offering “snake oil.” Despite this, he said reducing flat tires through sealant use is based on science and understanding how they work.
In making a case for HP tire sealant use, Mr. Webb noted there is “technical legitimacy” to using the products in OTR tires. Sealants carry a range of synthetic fibers and fillers to a tire wound and act as a mechanical plug instead of as a chemical reaction, he said. They can seal very large punctures as well as prevent slow leaks caused by rubber porosity and small punctures.
Sealants work by circulating inside the tire/wheel cavity, projecting their fibers and fillers into the wound, he explained. As the tire rotates, the wound opens and closes, which packs more fiber into it. At no time during this process should a chemical reaction occur because then the sealant would be reacting with the tire's components, he stressed.
Good sealants also don't wear out or separate, according to Mr. Webb.
“You should be able to install the sealant, use it for the life of the tire and scoop it out when the tire's done,” Mr. Webb told attendees, adding that they should be able to wash out a sealant with water and then dispose of or retread the carcass.
A sealant that separates creates on the inner tread area of a tire a mat of fibers that's unable to migrate within the tire, he told Tire Business. What happens then is a solid component that can't get to the wound and a liquid that can get to the wound but, without the solid, will be ejected, Mr. Webb said.
The way dealers can tell whether a tire sealant is effective is by asking questions of the manufacturer—particularly if the product has a shelf life, he said. If the sealant's container instructs users to shake well before use, then that's a sure sign the product's liquid and solid mix separates.
“If (the sealant) separates on the shelf just from gravitational effects, it will separate much more rapidly in a tire due to the increased G-forces at moderate rotational speeds,” Mr. Webb told Tire Business.
The retail costs of sealants range from $101 for a skidsteer tire to $360 for a tire fitting a motor grader, according to Mr. Webb. No sealant works “100 percent,” he said, “but from a financial proposition, it doesn't have to work 100 percent” for an OTR dealer to use it as a new profit opportunity.
“The use of a sealant, especially in an OTR application, would be financially attractive with probably a 40- to 50-percent effectiveness rate,” he added.